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Saving the Jewish People

November 14, 2014

Every week, Jody Hirsh, the JCC's Judaic Education Director, provides a Judaic message that is featured at the top of the JCC's weekly email newsletter. Below is the Shabbat message for Friday, November 14, 2014.

Saving the Jewish People

Joel  Grishaver’s  quirky 1993 book, 40 Things You Can Do to Save the Jewish People, has a lot to say about Shabbat. His chapter entitled “Always Remember Shabbat – Even When You Don’t Keep It,” points out that the Ten Commandments are repeated twice in the Torah: in Exodus and in Deuteronomy. In Exodus, it tells us to “Remember” the Sabbath Day, and in Deuteronomy it tells us to “Keep” the Sabbath Day. Joel, quoting one of his students tells us that “The idea could be, that even if you are not “keeping” all the rules of Shabbat, Shabbat can have a kind of holiness if it is always part of your consciousness.

Sometimes Shabbat seems too complicated for us to actually observe it. Too much preparation for a “Shabbat Dinner.” Weekends are busy – how can we really take time out in a busy life? I’ve noticed that for many people, a Shabbat Dinner is a dinner party. With planning a menu, inviting guests, cooking all day, polishing the silver, and more, there just isn’t time. Even preparing a Shabbat dinner for your family – just mom, dad, & kids, sometimes seems too much trouble.  In his book, Grishaver quotes  a story that educator Vicky Kelman tells:

It was a Shabbat camp, a family camp, which Vicky was running. It was the middle of a session where parents were talking about the difficulties of Jewish life. One woman, Shirley, talked about the problems of being a single mother and managing to get Shabbat on the table after a full day of work….

Vicky empathized with the image of picking up a young son from day care, rushing home, and trying to get a white-table-cloth-and-napkin event together – even if it was only to be dinner for two by Shabbat candlelight. Vicky had a moment of epiphany. She looked at this woman and said, “Shriley – just bring home a pizza.” Then she explained that the essence of Shabbat – a peaceful dinner together – is more important than the formal conventions.*

Shabbat shalom.

*Joel Grishaver, 40 Things You Can Do to Save the Jewish People, Alef Design Group [Los Angeles: 1993]